Category Archives: Brands

The Duchess of Cambridge and her court shoes

Of course I’ve been keeping up with the Cambridge’s grand tour Down Under and reading all the breathless commentary on stylish Kate. She certainly has a great pair of pins, and today I learned her secret: nude court shoes!

Here in the U.S. we call these shoes “pumps”: closed-toe, low front shoes with heels. According to the fashion press, nude pumps/court shoes give the illusion of long legs when the color of the pump and the skin are similar. Which makes sense, as your eye tends to stop when you get to a jolt of black or red at the feet.

Sign me up!

According to the folks in the know at the Daily Mail, Kate’s preferred court shoe comes from London-based retailer LK Bennett and these shoes are, unfortunately, sold out in the U.K. If you’re stateside, you can purchase the style “Sledge” at Nordstrom for just $345.

If you, like I, don’t have a royal allowance for footwear, here are some lower-priced options.

Here’s the Madden Girl Fastenn pump for $34.30 at Belk. The LK Bennett pump is a bit more taupe, but I think the Madden Girl version would work better on someone with fair skin. It must be a popular choice with Kate admirers because most sizes are hard to find: Belk was the only online retailer where I found a variety of sizes available.

If you’ve got more dosh (sorry, I’ve been reading the latest Elizabeth George mystery), the Cole Hahn Chelsea pump is very similar to the LK Bennett court shoe. They’re currently $199.00 at Zappos … and free shipping. Like the Madden Girl pumps, though, popular sizes are unavailable at the moment, but Zappos will let you know when your size is back in stock.

The Michael Kors Ionna pump is quite nice, too, and a more reasonable $130 at Zappos — that is, if they have your size. The only thing I don’t like is the bling on the back of the heel.

I saw some other nude pumps by Kate Spade and Christian Louboutin, but if I can’t afford LK Bennett, it goes without saying I can’t afford these versions either.

I’m curious to see the “nude” effect on my own legs, so I’m heading down to our local Marshall’s to give it a try. I’m not so sure about that platform look; my mind goes to porn films, hookers, and Times Square in the 70s, sorry. And those heels — some of them are 4″ or 5″. Never mind walk in them. Could I even stand? We’ll see … I’ve sewn a bunch of skirts in the last couple months, and I’m eager to see if nude pumps are the trick of the eye my figure needs. 🙂

McCall’s 3341

McCalls 3341, view C

Closeup of M3341 skirt fabric

Still too cold to model, so here’s another winter creation on my dressform. McCall’s 3341 is a tried-and-true a-line skirt pattern for so many sewing bloggers that there’s not a lot I can add to the kudos out there. It’s my go-to pattern for simple summer skirts, as well as dressier numbers, such as the one you see above. Here I’ve sewn up view C.

The fabric is a remnant I picked up years ago at Fabric Fix (now closed) in Manchester, New Hampshire. I’ve always loved the pattern and brocade weave. It’s upholstery fabric, I’m sure … it ravels like no one’s business, so every seam edge in this skirt has been serged. No lining, as the fabric has a lot of body and it’s something I would wear with tights.

The closeup shows the detail of the brocade. I like the tiny cherry blossoms. 🙂

The blouse is from Brooks Brothers and is one of my favorites. The only things I don’t like about it are the French cuffs, which is why the sleeves are rolled up. (Note to self: buy some blingy cufflinks.) The scarf is a genuine Hermès, a gift from a generous ex-boyfriend who reads my blog occasionally. (We’re still friends.) Thank you, S. I wear it a lot!

One of my goals this year is to upgrade my work-at-home wardrobe. Because I spend most of my day in the kitchen or in front of my computer, I basically live in jeans, knit shirts, and sweaters. My corporate clothes from the 90s are all out of fashion and probably a couple sizes too small, so it’s great to finally have an outfit I could wear to a professional meeting and not look like a total slob.

Morning porridge

“Into these bowls, Mrs Squeers, assisted by the hungry servant, poured a brown composition, which looked like diluted pincushions without the covers, and was called porridge.” — The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, Charles Dickens

It’s a blustery morning here outside Boston, and although the wind gusts are warm, the gray, wet weather calls for a bowl of hot porridge.

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We typically think of porridge being a oats-based cereal, but most any hot grain cereal can be considered “porridge.” When I was a child and teenager, I remember reading novels where children were forced to choke down their morning porridge, a horrid cold, gray slop. I never made the connection that this dish was the same one I ate most mornings, whether it was the Cream of Wheat or Cream of Rice that my maternal grandmother cooked for us, or the packets of instant oatmeal flavored with apples and cinnamon I’d eat on the run. Hot cereal was always my favorite breakfast, and forty years later, it still is.

I’m the only one in our household who loves starting the day with a bowl of hot porridge. My son won’t touch it, maybe because I pointed out to him he shares the same name as a wide-eyed urchin who had the courage to ask for another bowl of porridge. (Actually, poor Oliver wanted more gruel, which is a thin, watery porridge.) My favorite grain for porridge is Bob’s Red Mill 8-Grain Cereal. It’s not gluten-free, but it is free of wheat, a grain my digestive system struggles with. It consists of ground corn, oats, brown rice, soy beans, oat bran, millet, sorghum, sunflower seeds, and flaxseed.

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Here’s how I make it. I bring one cup of water and a pinch of salt to boil. I add 1/4 cup cereal and turn the heat down to low, stirring frequently so the cereal doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. If it looks like it’s getting too thick, I add some hot water and keep stirring. I like my porridge with a bit of chew, so after about four or five minutes of cooking, I start tasting it. When it’s to my liking, I scrape the cereal into a large bowl and the fun begins.

Since porridge is rather bland, it marries well with flavorful toppings. My usual additions are a handful of slivered almonds, a handful of frozen wild blueberries, a teaspoon of coconut oil (esp. in winter!), and a good slosh of maple syrup. Then I top with a bit of milk, mix it all together, then enjoy my porridge while reading my favorite blogs. Not only is this a pleasant ritual, eating porridge every morning powers me through to the afternoon — I get a quick burst of energy from the carbs and sugars, then more steady energy from the fats and proteins in the nuts, coconut oil, and milk. When I skip my porridge routine, I feel it for the rest of the day.

Are you fan of hot cereals? How do you make yours?

The Duchess Effect

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I’ve been seeing lots of stories recently about “The Duchess Effect” or “The Kate Effect,” about how the Duchess of Cambridge’s clothing choices are wielding considerable influence on the fashion industry, especially over the last year since her marriage to Prince William.

While I’m not a rabid royalty watcher, I have always felt sympathetic toward Kate (I’m sorry; I can’t yet bring myself to call her Catherine.) I hated how the British tabloids trashed her and her family in the years before her marriage and can’t help but feeling a bit of “haa haa on you” when I see these same tabloids tripping over themselves, breathlessly covering her every move. I don’t think Kate has made one misstep, which has got to be hard with potentially billions of eyes on you every time you run out for a Starbucks.

I have noticed the effect the Duchess has on fashion. Indeed, I’ve even fallen head-over-heels in love with a shawl she wore while shopping (I blogged about it here) and the white coat she wore to Prince William’s passing-out ceremony. But model my wardrobe after Kate’s? Hmmm.

First, have you really studied a picture of her? She’s TINY. Not short tiny, but skinny tiny. A single thigh of mine is bigger than her torso. Okay, not really, but let’s just say a lot of the stuff she wears wouldn’t look good on my “curves.” For example, before she was married she was frequently photographed wearing skinny jeans stuffed into boots. First, I consider “skinny jeans” to be a pair of pants I can fit my butt into after a week of dieting. Second, if I stuffed my jean bottoms into a pair of skinny boots, I’d cut off circulation to my feet. The bottom line: where Kate looks slim and chic, I’d looked like an overstuffed sausage.

Then there’s the fact that you have to shop to get Kate’s look. And frankly, I hate to shop, except if the shopping involves yarn … then I’m up for the game. But people who really love Kate’s look must have to spend a fortune by quickly snapping up an original the moment Kate’s photographed in it (the royal blue engagement dress by Issa) or spend too much time hunting down a knockoff.

And then there’s that fact that I’m 17 years older than the Duchess. I’m more in Princess Diana’s generation, but NOT Prince Charles’s, thankyouverymuch. It’s weird because I don’t think the Duchess dresses in a particularly youthful manner (a criticism she receives from a lot of print journalists who cover fashion), but maybe it’s that I don’t place as much emphasis on fashion as I did in my 20s and early 30s, and go more for what looks good on me and what fits the life I have today. I’m more apt to look at a pair of wellies the Queen is wearing and wondering if they’d be a good choice for summer gardening … or should I get less sexy rubber gardening clogs? Does that make sense?

I like seeing how her fashion choices inspire others, though. The blog What Kate Wore reports on everything Kate wears and gives details on where you can buy. The green shawl that I adore has its own Ravelry group. BurdaStyle offers pattern suggestions for Kate fans who like to sew. And not Kate fashion, but an Australian pattern company developed a pattern for “The Pippa Dress.” Now that’s something you’ll never catch me in, although Gorgeous Things did “gorgeous things” with it … and she’s even in my generation! (She looks seriously stunning in it.) Don’t sew or knit? The Daily Mail frequently covers Kate and will tell you what brand she’s wearing.

So what do you think about all this “Duchess/Kate Effect” business? Do you think it will wear off? Do you catch yourself admiring certain clothes Kate wears or would you rather not be bothered? Please comment below. As for me, I’m sure I’ll keep watching but I don’t see myself patterning a wardrobe based on another person’s look. I am, however, going to cast on that shawl. Kate seriously ripped off my style.

What Trinny and Susannah did next

British style mavens Trinny Woodall and Susannah Constantine were once hugely popular television personalities in the UK, and even here in the U.S., they achieved a certain level of notoriety with their show, What Not to Wear (where they could always be counted on to grab and push up some hapless woman’s droopy boobs to show the viewing audience what a good bra could do). But in recent years, the duo’s been more of a staple in gossip columns with Trinny’s divorce and supposed hookups with Keanu Reeves than fixtures on the television.

They’ve done something, though, that I think is inspired, not to mention hilarious: They’ve created a mockumentary series for ivillage.co.uk called What They Did Next about their quest for an advertising contract. The first episode went up today, and each Monday, they’ll be releasing a new one. It’s very well done, a mix between the U.K.’s The Office and the U.S.’s Curb Your Enthusiasm and Entourage.

What do you think? A hit or a miss? Add your comments below.

Attention Anglophile shoppers

Liberty of London has announced a partnership with Target stores to sell a line of branded clothing and housewares under the aptly named “Flower Power Collection.” The collection, which will include everything from underwear to bicycles, will be available starting March 2010. Read more here.

Dear Sir Richard Branson

Virgin Atlantic meal

Many of you may have read this already — the letter is making the rounds of the Internets — but in case you haven’t, read this hilarious complaint letter written by an peevish Virgin Atlantic customer to Sir Richard Branson about the horrendous meal he was served aboard a Virgin flight from Mumbai to Heathrow in December. The customer, who since has been identified as an advertising executive named Oliver Beale, received a call from Branson afterwards, who apologized for the disgusting slop and offered Beale the opportunity to choose meals and wine for future Virgin flights.

I love that the letter was accompanied by photos because that food does look abominable and I’m afraid the hyperbole alone wouldn’t have been as convincing. On that note, two of the best airline meals of my life were on British Airways flights to and from Heathrow and Mumbai. Maybe Virgin Atlantic should send some spies to check it out.